One of Pushkin's greatest love poems, Я Вас Любил, has captured generations of hearts, and inspired a multitude of translations. A great by Zhuravlev :
I loved you once; even now I may confess,
Some embers of my love their fire retain;
But do not let it cause you more distress,
I do not want to sadden you again.
Hopeless and tongue-tied, yet I loved you dearly
With pangs the jealous and the timid know;
So tenderly I loved you, so sincerely,
I pray God grant another love you so.
But the original Russian holds a secret that the translation cannot. If we were to pose the question, is the narrator in love? In studying the Russian below most readers would point to the past tense in verb любить in the first, 5th and 7th lines- “я вас любил” as evidence that this love has passed (aside from a very small amount not yet died in the soul)
Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может,
В душе моей угасла не совсем;
Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;
Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.
Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,
То робостью, то ревностью томим;
Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.
But have a listen to this reading, focussing your attention to the endings of the first four lines. Быть может is an interesting but rare inversion.
In these four lines, hidden French emerges, a language Pushkin was well acquainted with. And in this lies a hidden message. Take the ‘Жет’ ending of может, and combine it with the ‘Ем’ ending of совсем. ЖетЕм.
Now take the the ‘Жет’ ending of тревожит, and combine it with the ‘Ем’ ending of ничем.
ЖетЕм. Же Т'ем Je t’aime. I love you. Present tense. Right now. No embers, no small amounts that haven’t yet died. Full on love but hidden in French within the Russian. Wasn’t Pushkin a clever man….
What is your favourite poem by Pushkin?
By: The Russian Student